Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that allows users to bypass banks, avoid transaction fees, and maintain complete financial anonymity if they so desire. Because no physical money changes hands, bitcoin exchange can seem perplexing to those of us who aren’t major techies. While it originally found appeal with black market entities and other organizations with an interest in hiding their finances, bitcoin is rapidly finding its way into the mainstream.

One of its biggest drawbacks was that transactions and accounts aren’t insured (like money in traditional banks), so a clever hacker can steal your stash and it’s just gone. However as more and more governments and retailers are jumping on the Bitcoin bandwagon, finding reliable, safe storage is getting easier every day. Techonomy reports, “As the bitcoin ecosystem continues to expand, emerging-markets startups are gaining the attention of venture capitalists from the developed world.”

It’s slowly (or quickly, depending on how you look at it) taking over e-commerce with more and more retailers getting on board all the time. Since we’re probably going to have to use a bitcoin at some point or another, we figure we might as well give you 18 facts you need to know right now.

1. The When
Bitcoin was first described in 2008 in a paper published by Santoshi Nakamoto.

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